05/19/2012 7:45PM

Preakness 2012: Smith, Bodemeister fall short again

Debra A. Roma
"I really don't know what I have to do to beat him," said Mike Smith, who ran second aboard Bodemeister to I'll Have Another in the Preakness.

BALTIMORE – Mike Smith dismounted from Bodemeister, and it was hard to tell if he was grinning or grimacing. Maybe it was both. Smith and Bodemeister had just been beaten on the wire in the 137th Preakness by I’ll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez, and Smith seemed in awe of the drama that had just occurred.

“I really don’t know what I have to do to beat him,” said Smith. “Maybe they’ll give that horse his due now. He’s a good horse. He’s a really good horse.”

[PREAKNESS STAKES: Replay, chart, complete postrace coverage]

Smith scarcely could have written a better opening script for the way the Preakness unfolded Saturday at Pimlico, where I’ll Have Another kept alive his hopes for the first Triple Crown in 34 years by reeling in Bodemeister in the final sixteenth-mile to prevail by a neck. Bodemeister made the lead into the first turn with relative ease while going at a more relaxed pace than he had set two Saturdays beforehand in the Kentucky Derby. Going in fractions of 23.79, 47.68, and 1:11.72, he had nothing but an open lead and clear sailing when he turned into the homestretch.

But just like in the Derby, Bodemeister began getting leg-weary leaving the furlong pole, where he had a three-length lead and only one horse with a realistic chance of catching him. At the same time, that one horse – I’ll Have Another – was hitting overdrive, and as the wire approached, the crowd was in full throat, with some rooting for Bodemeister to please hold on and others exhorting I’ll Have Another to please get past him.

“We knew the other horse wasn’t stopping,” said J. Paul Reddam, owner of I’ll Have Another. “He ran a huge, gigantic race … But we knew the stretch here was very long. It was a very thrilling race.”

“It was a great race,” said Smith. “I just wish we could have gotten there, but I really don’t know what [Bodemeister] could’ve done. He laid it all out there for me again today.”

The narrow defeat denied Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a sixth Preakness victory. Jill Baffert, his wife, was among the first to reach out to congratulate Paul Reddam, owner of I’ll Have Another, doing so in the paddock runway leading to the racetrack where chaos, as usual, reigned in the Preakness aftermath. Bob Baffert was equally magnanimous in defeat.

“It’s one of those things where it’s good for the sport,” he said. “It’s good for the Belmont.

“I felt really good about where [Bodemeister] was. He looked like he was traveling nicely down the backside, and coming to the three-eighths pole, [Smith] just sat on him. The fractions were more reasonable today, so turning for home I really thought he was going to do it. He just got a little late there at the end. The winner’s a good horse. It was a good horse race. I really can’t complain. We didn’t win it, but my horse ran his race. … I’m proud that as a trainer my horse showed up and ran his race. He just got beat.”

The terrific rivalry that has developed between Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another most likely will have to wait for another day, since Baffert seems willing to let Dullahan or Union Rags be the main challengers in attempting to thwart I’ll Have Another in his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes on June 9. Regardless of what happens in New York, nothing can diminish the thrills I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister gave racing fans in the first two legs of the 2012 Triple Crown.

At the post-race media conference Saturday, Gutierrez was only talking about what happened in the Preakness, but he might as well have been summarizing both races. “Bodemeister ran a huge race,” he said. “But my horse has a huge kick in the end.”